CULTURE & ARTS

World's Earliest-Known Ten Commandments Stone Fetches $850,000 At Auction

The buyer must put the artifact on public display as part of the sales deal.

The world’s oldest-known stone carrying the full inscription of the Ten Commandments sold for $850,000 at a Beverly Hills auction Wednesday night. 

The late Roman-Byzantine era marble tablet, dating from around A.D. 300-830, weighs 115 pounds and is inscribed with 20 lines of chiseled Samaritan script. It was likely displayed at the entrance of an ancient synagogue destroyed by either the Romans between A.D. 400 to 600 or 11th century Crusaders, according to Heritage Auctions, which hosted the sale.

The auction house said the stone’s middle portion was heavily worn, likely due to foot traffic.

Experts believe that the stone’s finders did not know its value when they uncovered it during a railway excavation near the city of Yavneh, in what is now Israel, in 1913. They either gave it or sold it to a man who set the tablet, inscription side up, into the threshold of a room. 

A vintage engraving featuring Moses and the Ten Commandments.
A vintage engraving featuring Moses and the Ten Commandments.

The tablet was eventually sold and evaluated in the early 1940s, and its significance as the world’s earliest-known complete inscription of the Ten Commandments became known. 

By 2005, the Israel Antiquities Authority granted export approval for the piece to the Living Torah Museum, which put the stone up for auction with the approval of IAA. 

The new owner, who has not been identified, is under obligation to display the tablet for the benefit of the public. Bidding started at $300,000.

This article has been updated to reflect that Israel was not a state in 1913 when the artifact was found.

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